Part of the Bay Area News Group

Archive for July, 2009

Pinole councilwoman resigns

Mary Horton

Mary Horton

Pinole Councilwoman Mary Horton has resigned after 20 years on the council. Click here to see my colleague Tom Lochner’s story.

As Tom wrote, “Horton’s tenure on the council was “sometimes collegial, sometimes not. She and former Councilwoman Maria Alegria became bitter opponents when Horton backed Laura Canciamilla in the 2006 Democratic primary campaign for state Assembly while Alegria backed Mark DeSaulnier, the eventual winner.In the 2006 council race, Alegria backed newcomer Stephen Tilton over Horton, who barely held on to her seat, finishing third behind Tilton in a four-candidate race for three seats.

Horton supported the recall of Alegria and Tilton in 2008 over their friendship with a restaurateur who owed the city money, among other issues.”

The council can choose to appoint someone to fill the remaining year of her term or call a special election. I bet on an appointment given the high cost of special elections.

Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
Under: Contra Costa politics | No Comments »

CC Registrar Weir delivers ‘Karnak’ routine

Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters Steve Weir put on his famous (infamous?) Karnak hat this morning at a joint conference of the Contra Costa chambers of commerce at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Concord.

Carson used to bring down the house with his routine, where he first gave the audience the answer and then ripped open an envelope to produce the question. Does Weir match up? Watch and decide for yourself.

Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
Under: Contra Costa County | No Comments »

CIA, other agencies sued for misconduct records

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital civil liberties group, today sued the Central Intelligence Agnecy and half a dozen other federal intelligence-gathering agencies, demanding the release of reports on potential misconduct since 2001 that might’ve been unlawful or contrary to presidential order.

“By executive order, federal intelligence agencies must submit concerns about potentially illegal activity to the Intelligence Oversight Board and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence,” EFF Open Government Legal Fellow Nate Cardozo said in a news release. “Intelligence agencies are given a wide berth for national security reasons, but at a minimum they’re required to act within the limits of the law. These records hold important details about how well the Executive Branch’s internal checks operate.”

Members of the Intelligence Oversight Board are appointed by the president to advise on intelligence matters. Until last year, all intelligence agencies had to report to the board “any intelligence activities of their organizations that they have reason to believe may be unlawful or contrary to Executive order or Presidential directive.” The board was tasked with reviewing and summarizing those reports, and forwarding to the president those that it believed described legal violations. Last year, however, President Bush reassigned many of these responsibilities, including reviewing agency reports, to the Director of National Intelligence.

Now, with media reporting that the CIA didn’t tell Congress about a plan to train anti-terrorist assassin teams, transparency is key, EFF claims. Lawmakers are accusing the CIA of deliberately misleading Congress and demanding an investigation; reports the agencies sent to the Intelligence Oversight Board could shed light on what really happened.

Besides the CIA, EFF’s lawsuit names as defendants the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice (including the FBI), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Energy, and the Department of State – none of which responded to EFF’s requests for the information under the Freedom of Information Act.

Posted on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009
Under: General | 2 Comments »

CD10: Lawsuit, smack talk and other stuff

Here are some tidbits that crossed my desk today in the special election in the 10th Congressional District to replace Ellen Tauscher.


ALAMO RESIDENT Jeffrey Gerlach has filed suit in the California Supreme Court against Contra Costa County and the Secretary of State over the nearly impossible deadline to submit signatures in lieu of paying a filing fee in order to become a  nonpartisan candidate in the 10th Congressional District special election.

Gerlach has a point. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called the election on July 3. But due egally mandated election timeline under the truncated special election schedule, the deadline was July 6 — just three days later and during the July 4 holiday weekend — to file 3,000 signatures of registered voters instead of paying the $1,740 filing fee.  During a standard election cycle, individuals have several months to gather and submit signatures in lieu of a filing fee.

That’s not much time. Gerlach wants the Supreme Court to order the county and the state to accept his signatures in lieu of the filing fee and place his name on the Nov. 3 special general election ballot. The special primary will be held Sept. 1.


Richmond Councilman Tom Butt talked smack today about CD10 candidate and Lt. Governor John Garamendi in the city leader’s widely disseminated email bulletin:

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi

“Richmond residents should remember that Garamendi is one of three members of the California State Lands Commission who, despite pleas from hundreds of Richmond residents and the entire City Council, voted against requiring Chevron to pay for the Bay Trail gap as a condition for renewing the Chevron Long Wharf lease.

“The Lt Governor’s questions indicated that he thought the City of Richmond and East Bay Regional Park District should fund the entire $13 million cost themselves.  Chevron’s lobbyists had been very effective in teaching Commissioners the ABC’s, i.e. Anywhere But Chevron as a source of funds for closing the trail gap.  The Commission’s priority was getting Chevron’s money now for the state’s general fund.”

“Garamendi is no friend of Richmond. He sucks up to big business and is insensitive to the needs of cities. No one in Richmond, or anywhere else for that matter, should vote to send him to Congress.”

Uh, Tom, in case you didn’t know, Richmond is not in the 10th District and its residents cannot vote for Garamendi anyway.


David Harmer

David Harmer

Republican candidate David Harmer will open his new campaign headquarters on Aug. 1 at 500 Ygnacio, Suite 360, in Walnut Creek. Join him at 9 a.m. for a rally followed by precinct walking. Call Chris Del Beccaro to RSVP at 206-963-3026 or email


Democrat and new media guru Adriel Hampton has launched a new website called

On the site, Hampton says, individuals set their own list of priorities, and they are all added up into one list and tracked like the Nielsen TV ratings or the Billboard music charts.

Adriel Hampton

Adriel Hampton

“On the new site, citizens have already added priorities such as civil marriage equality and local sourcing of aid to developing nations,” Hampton said. “Popular topics include ending the Drug War, fighting for single-payer health care, and providing federal funding for class-size reduction.”

NationBuilder is modeled after the technology behind, which allows people to send their ideas and views to President Barack Obama.  The open source NationBuilder platform is available in beta for any campaign, business or non-profit, Hampton says.


Democrat Anthony Woods will host in Fairfield on Thursday the first of a series of town hall meetings to discuss his candidacy and hear from voters. It will be held at 2500 North Texas St. from 7-8:30 p.m. More forums will follow throughout the district. To RSVP, call 707-419-4553.


Joan Buchanan

Joan Buchanan

DEMOCRAT AND ASSEMBLYWOMAN JOAN BUCHANAN will launch her blog this week on her website, where she says she will focus on the needs of the region’s small business owners and operators. She also announced that she will also continue her small business tour next with tops in Livermore, Dixon and Fairfield. Check her website for details.


Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
Under: General | No Comments »

Grassroots blitz for health care reform

Organizing for America – the grassroots offshoot of President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign – is staging a weeklong blitz to highlight popular support for health care reform that lowers costs, guarantees choice with a public option, and provides every American access to quality care.

Here in California, that means door-to-door canvassing, phone banking and community events like the one planned for 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday in Oakland’s Mosswood Park, at West MacArthur Blvd. and Broadway. OFA California State Director Mary Jane Stevenson said attendees will be asked to call members of Congress and recruit more volunteers, creating “a constant drumbeat that can’t be ignored” so lawmakers know constituents will have their backs when they vote for reform.

On Friday, the office of every California member of Congress will receive written and videotaped testimonials from Californians who’ve run afoul of the broken health-care system. On Saturday, doctors will be canvassing California neighborhoods. On Sunday, volunteers will be manning information tables all over the state.

Also on today’s conference call with reporters was Mary Schmidt, a college student and OFA summer intern from Sacramento who told her own story of battling cancer for the last few years, only to recently learn that her health insurance – provided by her mother, a longtime teacher who also is taking a pay cut – will cease effective Sept. 1. “I believe that something needs to change.”

Volunteer Claire Best of Los Angeles spoke of an HIV-positive friend who lost his job as a corporate executive and, in order to pay for health insurance, had to drain his savings and even eventually sell his house. Even then, he grew ill and in 10 days racked up a hospital bill that would’ve eaten up a third of the proceeds from his home’s sale; knowing he’d be homeless and destitute if he left the hospital, “it’s our feeling that he gave up” and died. “Nobody should have to choose between their life and their life’s savings,” she said.

And Dr. Alex Blum, field director of Doctors for America, said he once saw a 12-year-old boy devastated by a stroke, only to learn that the boy had suffered a less-serious stroke five years earlier but his mother – a sole provider for her kids who was struggling to keep food on the table – hadn’t sought the proper care for him. Too many Americans are forced to choose between health care and providing for their families, he said, and that’s “wholly unacceptable.”

Stevenson said stories like these will play a big role in the health-care reform debate over the next few weeks, and OFA’s campaign is about giving those stories a megaphone. “This has never been done before – this field operation is, we feel, what’s going to make us win the battle that’s been unwinnable for 60 years.”

Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
Under: healthcare reform | 6 Comments »

What they’re saying about the budget deal

There are a lot of unhappy people out there this morning.

California Association of Counties Executive Director Paul McIntosh told me a few minutes ago that California counties are staring at “the three prongs of the devil’s pitchfork,” losing redevelopment money, gas tax revenue and property tax revenue.

McIntosh said redevelopment funds already seem tapped out. As for gas taxes, McIntosh noted CSAC had advocated for a temporary 5-cent increase in the state gas tax to cover the debt-service payments for which the state now intends to seize counties’ money – a move counties believe is unconstitutional. “They’ve actually got to adopt legislation and the governors got to sign a bill before we have a challengeable action, but rest assured that if they follow down that path, as soon as possible after that we would be filing litigation.”

The gas tax diversion, if consummated, would devastate county public works departments, leaving local roads in a sorry state uncontemplated by Californians in recent years.

“We don’t like to see the state borrowing our property taxes, we’re quite protective of our local revenues, but we recognize that the constitution does allow for that contingency,” he said, noting the constitution requires the state to repay counties this money within three years, and CSAC wants to ensure the legislation is written strong enough so that counties can go to Wall Street and borrow now against that promise.

And now… to the quotes!

California Welfare Directors Association Executive Director Frank Mecca:

“Serious damage has been done to the seniors, people with disabilities, and children of our State by our leaders’ misguided budget choices. The full magnitude of that damage to people is not yet completely clear, but one thing is certain: this is the biggest step back from protecting and investing in vulnerable Californians in a generation.”

Senate Republican Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta:

“We were able to resolve California’s 26.3 billion dollar budget deficit without raising taxes. It solves our cash flow issues and saves money by reforming key government programs so they operate more efficiently. By being accountable for every taxpayer dollar we can save billions in future years.”

Children’s Defense Fund California Policy Director Deena Lahn:

“The Governor and the Legislature are breaking promises to children. For the first time in a decade, instead of reducing the ranks of uninsured children, the situation for children in California will get much worse. How can our leaders not consider closing all tax loopholes before working parents are told that preventive care for children isn’t possible any longer. Even more outrageous, they are forcing a freeze in a program (Healthy Families) that is paid for mostly with federal dollars! California is being shamed in front of the nation, as other states manage to increase health care for working families, even in the midst of a recession.”

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer:

“Getting this budget agreement enacted will be a big step forward, but our state still has a lot of hard work and sacrifice ahead before we are out of the woods. At this point, it’s too early to assess the effect of the budget deal on our cash borrowing needs. Until enactment of the budget changes by the Legislature and the Governor later this week, it will not be possible for anyone to estimate or announce the size, sequence or scheduling of any short-term cash borrowing. That determination will be made in collaboration with the Controller’s Office and the Department of Finance after we study an analysis of new state cash flow reports.”

More, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
Under: state budget | 8 Comments »

CD10 special election attracts 14 candidates

Fourteen Thirteen people have filed to run in the Sept. 1 special primary election in the 10th Congressional District to replace Ellen Tauscher. (UPDATE 6:24 P.M. Just received an updated list from the clerk’s office with a 14th candidate, Republican Mark Loos of Livermore.)

The deadline to submit nomination papers and pay the $1,740 filing fee was at 5 p.m. today.

The top vote-getter in each party will advance to the Nov. 3 election unless one candidate receives 50 percent plus 1 vote in the primary. (An outright win in the primary is unlikely given the large number of candidates.)

It’s also a blanket primary, which means that all candidates regardless of party will appear on the same ballot and all voters regardless of partisan affiliation can vote for any candidate.

Here is the candidate list along with the candidates’ ballot designations, city of residence and web sites, if they have them:


(1) Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo –

(2) State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier of Concord –

(3) Lt. Governor and rancher John Garamendi of Walnut Grove –

(4) Adriel Hampton, an investigator from Dublin –

(5) Anthony Woods, an economic policy analyst of Fairfield –


(6) Chris Bunch, a small business owner of Fairfield –

(7) Gary Clift, retired law enforcement officer from Vacaville –

(8) David Harmer, an independent businessman of Dougherty Valley –

(9) David Peterson, accountability system owner of Walnut Creek (no web site but here is an email address:

(10) John Toth, a Pleasant Hill physician –

(11) Mark Loos, a small business owner from Livermore (this link is now working; there is no www in the URL) –


(12) Jeremy Cloward, community college professor of Pleasant Hill –


(13) Mary McIlroy, an El Cerrito office worker –


(14) Jerome Denham, insurance agent of Walnut Creek – (The web site is not labeled as a Congressional candidate page but the Freedom Coalition of Walnut Creek and Denham have the same phone number. )

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election | 14 Comments »

CD10: Williamson may have to run as write-in

Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson

Oprah spiritual adviser, peace activist and New York Times best-selling author Marianne Williamson is ineligible to run as a Democrat in the special 10th Congressional District special election and is exploring a run instead as a write-in candidate.

Election law says you must have been registered as a member of a party at least 90 days in order to run as a candidate for that party. She became a Democrat in June and is not eligible to run as a member of that party, said Contra Costa Registrar of Voters Steve Weir.

“Ms. Williamson has a lawyer who is calling and asking questions about the write-in process,” Weir said.

Five p.m. today is the deadline for partisan and independent candidates to file for the seat. The deadline to qualify as a write-in candidate is Aug. 18. The special primary election is Sept. 1 and voting by mail will begin the week of Aug. 3.

As a write-in candidate, voters must literally write her name down on the ballot as it will not appear as one of the pre-printed choices. It is a very difficult hurdle for a candidate to overcome, particularly in a low turnout special election.

Williamson, a resident of Hollywood, has written numerous books on spirituality and regularly podcasts from Williamson recently held a series of listening tours around the district as part of her exploration of a possible run for Congress. Orinda resident Steven Berg attended one of her sessions and sent me this account:

Williamson said that what spurred her on to think about entering  the competitive race was hearing one of the current Democratic candidates say that he had the skills to negotiate with insurance companies, something she said she would not do.   Williamson spoke passionately in support of public financed political campaigns and their potential effect on removing the power of the insurance industry ‘and striking fear in them.’

Williamson spoke repeatedly about what will no doubt be a core theme in her campaign…the need to focus on what she termed “bringing peace, compassion and love to legislation.”

She spoke about her desire to convert Lawrence Livermore Laboratories into a vehicle for peace.  Said Williamson, “Right now 85% of the projects at Livermore are nuclear focused, we need to change them into projects for peace and build a Humanitarian Industrial Complex.”

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election | 49 Comments »

CD10: Tauscher’s endorsement questioned

A Lafayette attorney wants State Department lawyers to force Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher to repudiate her endorsement of state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier to succeed her in Congress.

And DeSaulnier rival John Garamendi made sure to give Tauscher a heads-up.

Jason A. Bezis – who in the final days of Tauscher’s Congressional career was berating her for what he says were too few and too inaccessible CD10 town meetings – has drafted an extensive memo, with exhibits, illustrating his complaint that Tauscher is in violation of State Department rules.

“The State Department’s ‘Rules on Political Activities’ state their rationale, ‘The Department has a long-standing policy of limiting participation in partisan campaigns by its top officials and political appointees in recognition of the bipartisan character of our foreign policy,’” Bezis noted in an e-mail to the DeSaulnier campaign accompanying the memo. “Therefore, Undersecretary Tauscher’s endorsement of your campaigns has the potential of harming American foreign policy. Your acceptance and prominent use of her endorsement may have a similar damaging effect.

He’s asking that DeSaulnier’s campaign remove all reference’s to Tauscher’s endorsement from its Web sites; remove from circulation and destroy any campaign literature and fundraising invitations stating or implying the endorsement; advise other Democratic groups to do the same; instruct staff and volunteers not to mention Tauscher’s endorsement; and omit any mention from it from future advertisements.

“Senator DeSaulnier is seeking to become a federal lawmaker. It is imperative, especially as an aspiring federal legislator, that he follows the letter and spirit of existing federal law. Mr. DeSaulnier should not enjoy ‘fruit from the poisonous tree’ of Undersecretary Tauscher’s illegal endorsement,” Bezis wrote in his e-mail.

Garamendi’s campaign sent a copy of Bezis’ memo this week to a Tauscher aide, with a cover note that said:

I have been informed by a lawyer in the 10th Congressional District that he is preparing a formal complaint concerning U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher’s endorsement of California State Senator Mark DeSaulnier in the run up to the September 1st Special Election.
I am a long time friend of Ellen’s and I do not want her to be jeopardized in any way. As a former Deputy Secretary at Interior, I am aware of the issue that she faces and I wanted the Undersecretary to know of this problem ahead of any formal complaint. Please let me know what the Undersecretary intends to do.
Attached is the draft of the lawyer’s memo.
John Garamendi

DeSaulnier campaign spokeswoman Katie Merrill offered just one word of response today: “Seriously?”

Tauscher’s office declined comment, but longtime Tauscher campaign consultant Lisa Tucker – no longer in the Under Secretary’s employ – said this is “sour grapes” on Garamendi’s part.

“Garamendi sought her endorsement and didn’t get it, and if he’d gotten it he wouldn’t be doing this,” Tucker said. “Everything that DeSaulnier is using says ‘Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher’ — it’s from before she was sworn in, so it’s all on the up-and-up.”

Tauscher endorsed DeSaulnier in late March, well before President Barack Obama formally nominated her in early May to serve as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

I tried to reach Bezis to ask whether he has endorsed, contributed to, or in any way supported any of the CD10 candidates, but my e-mail and voice mail weren’t returned. He is registered to vote as a Democrat and has written several articles for the Democrat-run California Majority Report, but I don’t see that he has made any campaign contributions to Garamendi or any other CD10 candidate.

UPDATE @ 7:33 A.M. FRIDAY: Bezis wrote back to me overnight, stating he’d endorsed DeSaulnier early on but revoked that endorsement “motivated in part by the campaign literature touting Ellen Tauscher’s backing of his campaign.” He said he has spoken with DeSaulnier, Garamendi, Joan Buchanan, Anthony Woods and Adriel Hampton in recent weeks and believes “all of the candidates (from all political parties) deserve a fair ‘playing field’ — which Tauscher’s illegal endorsement upsets.”

Tucker’s statement, he said, is “outrageous. Tauscher should not have made an endorsement in any partisan election would coincide with any day of her tenure at the State Department. Tauscher went out of her way to make a ‘pre-endorsement’ of DeSaulnier for a special election that did not yet exist. Tauscher knew that a vacancy would be created and a special election called because of and only because of her State Department appointment. It was obvious that her successor would be elected while she was at the State Department, when she undisputedly could not make an endorsement.”

Other CD10 tidbits, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Under: 2009 CD10 special election, Ellen Tauscher, Joan Buchanan, John Garamendi, Mark DeSaulnier, U.S. House | 11 Comments »

Meanwhile, in the CD11…

I was so focused on the CD10 campaign finance filings yesterday evening that I neglected to fill y’all in on CD11, where two Republicans have declared their intent to challenge Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, in 2010.

Jon Del Arroz of Danville filed a report saying his campaign raised $78,920 in the first half of this year, all from individuals, and he loaned his campaign $230,000. The campaign spent $32,199.53, leaving $276,720.47 cash on hand (much of which as encumbered by debt, although mostly to his loan) as of June 30.

Brad Goehring of Lodi filed a report saying his campaign raised $13,900 from April 1 through June 30, all from individuals, and he loaned his campaign $250,000. The campaign spent $5,092.40, leaving $258.807.60 cash on hand (encumbered by debt to the full amount of his loan) as of June 30.

And McNerney filed a report saying his campaign raised $288,723.13 – $148,737.88 from individuals, $140,500 from PACs and $235.25 from political party committees – from April 1 through June 30. The campaign already had $309,923.58 at the period’s start and spent $81,747.93 in that period, leaving $519,170.58 cash on hand as of June 30 with $22,417.40 in outstanding debts.

UPDATE @ 11:03 A.M.: I was just perusing the Lodi News-Sentinel’s story from the day before yesterday about Goehring, and saw this:

Goehring is also a major believer of spending within your means rather than raising taxes. He cities an example that hit home in a big way.

On April 25, frost killed 80 percent of his crops, so he and his wife, Kristin, sat together at a table and decided what they would cut from their own family budget.

They decided to postpone purchasing new farm equipment they needed, skipped vacations, spent less on food, didn’t buy new clothes and chose not to entertain friends all in order to save money.

“That’s what government needs to do,” Goehring said. “It was not easy to do, but it got done.”

Or, you raid your savings and/or borrow enough to lend your campaign $250,000, apparently.

Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2009
Under: 2010 election, campaign finance, Jerry McNerney, U.S. House | 14 Comments »